Well, the pollsters blew it again. To my knowledge none of them had any idea that Teddy Kennedy would win in New York and Connecticut by such a large margin.
Harris Gallop, a man who makes his living taking the pulse of the country, said bitterly, "We're not at fault. The American people are lying to us."
"I can't believe it," I said. "Why would a person lie to a pollster?"
"It's part of the malaise in the country. People are angry and bitter and they don't trust their leaders. So they're taking it out on us. They figure if they don't tell us the truth about how they're going to vote it could screw up the 1980 presidential election, which they're not too thrilled about to start with."
I was shocked to hear the news. "All of us in this country were brought up to respect the flag, love our country and tell the truth when a stranger with a clipboard asks us who we are going to vote for. Have we lost our moral compass?"
Harris replied, "It appears that way. I guess you could blame it on the 'me' generation. In the past Americans considered it their duty to tell a pollster the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They were aware that their responses affected the lives of candidates, campaign managers, the media and the public. The American system cannot operate if its leaders don't know what the public will do.
"Today when you stop a man on the street and ask him who he's going to vote for, you're likely to be told, 'It's none of your damn business.' It's gotten so bad that people don't even know who's going to win a primary until all the ballots have been counted."
"That's terrible," I said. "It not only makes you people look like fools, but it keeps everyone in suspense. It's no fun to follow a primary and not know who is going to win until Election Day." f
"Well, that's what's happening. People now prefer to be kept in suspense, and they know the best way to do it is by not leveling with the pollsters. I'm aware of several cases in New York where registered Democrats told me they didn't know who they were going to vote for, and then went into the booth and pulled the lever for Kennedy."
"That's tantamount to perjury! What can you people do about it?" I asked.
"Pass a law that if you lie to a certified pollster in the street or on the phone, your ballot doesn't count."
"That's a good idea, but how would you find out if people really were telling the truth?"
"We'd poll their neighbors and relatives to find out how they really voted."
"Won't that cost money?"
"Perhaps. But if we keep going the way we are, we'll be out of business anyway. What you have to understand is that those of us in the polling business are not just involved in politics. We make our big money working for private firms that are test-marketing new products. If a woman is going to lie to us about which candidate she is going to vote for, what is to prevent her from giving us a cock-and-bull story about the type of soap flakes she uses to wash her pantyhose?"